Kemmerer selected as site for nuclear power plant demonstration project

Aerial view of Naughton Power Plant
Aerial view of Naughton Power Plant, near Kemmerer, Wyoming (scan of 35mm black and white negative). (Photo: Multimedia Archives, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Rocky Mountain Power Company Photograph Collection, used with permission)

Kemmerer has been selected as the preferred site of a proposed nuclear power plant that will employ thousands during its construction and hundreds during its operation, TerraPower announced Tuesday.

With the Nov. 16 announcement, Kemmerer, a small southwest Wyoming town, will become the location of a Natrium reactor demonstration plant, one of two competitively selected advanced reactor demonstrations projects supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Construction, with cooperation from PacifiCorp, will take place near the Naughton Power Plant, southwest of Kemmerer, where two coal units are reportedly scheduled to retire in 2025, per the announcement.

Rendering of the proposes Natrium Reactor
A conceptual rendering of the Natrium Reactor being considered for construction in Wyoming. On Wed., June 2, Governor Mark Gordon announced the proposed project which is a partnership between TerraPower, Rocky Mountain Power (a subsidiary of PacifiCorp), and the U.S. Department of Energy. (Rendering: Rocky Mountain Power, Used with Permission)

The project is expected to employ approximately 2,000 people during the construction phase and around 250 people when the plant is operational.

“People across Wyoming welcomed us into their communities over the past several months, and we are excited to work with PacifiCorp to build the first Natrium plan in Kemmerer,” Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower, said in a statement. “Our innovative technology will help ensure the continued production of reliable electricity while also transitioning our energy system and creating new, good-paying jobs in Wyoming.”

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Multiple factors came into play while decided the preferred locations, TerraPower states, including community support, ease of licensing, the site’s physical characteristics, it’s access to existing infrastructure, and the needs of the grid, per the announcement.

“Just yesterday, (President Joe Biden) signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and today DOE is already putting it to work with more than $1.5 billion heading to Wyoming,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement.

The deal is the result of cooperation between the DOE and Congress to allocate nearly $2.5 billion in new funding for ARDP, which will cover DOE’s commitment to TerraPower for the first five years of a seven-year, $2 billion agreement, the announcement states, adding that the result of the project will be a commercially owned generating asset.

“The energy communities that have powered us for generations have real opportunities to power our clean energy future through projects just like this one, that provide good-paying jobs and usher in the next wave of nuclear technologies,” Granholm continued.

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The Natrium demonstration plant is intended to validate the operational features, construction, and design of the Natrium technology, which utilizes a sodium-cooled fast reactor coupled with a molten salt-based energy storage system, TerraPower says.

The process of a sodium-cooled fast reactor. (U.S. Department of Energy/Office of Nuclear Energy)

When completed and operational, which could be within the next seven years, TerraPower estimates the Natrium plant will be capable of producing enough energy to power around 400,000 homes.

“This project is an exciting opportunity to explore what could be the next generation of clean, reliable, affordable energy production while providing a path to transition for Wyoming’s energy economy, communities, and employees,” Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of PacifiCorp’s Rocky Mountain Power, said in a statement.

Southwest Wyoming is pleased and excited to host the project, said Kemmerer Mayor Bill Thek.

“This is great for Kemmerer and great for Wyoming,” he said in statement.